Taken from the cliffs above Como, Italy

Getting Out of Your Own Way

Drop the spiritual search and allow enlightenment to happen!

What rubbish.

One lovely reader said they were looking forward to this, my ultimate post on enlightenment. Sorry, love, there is no ultimate post happening. Nothing to look forward to. No amazing biscuit of wisdom that will change everything. That’s what you’re looking for, right? Because you think what you’re missing is, what? Information? For another enlightened person to say the same thing in yet another variation of metaphor, analogy, parable, poetry? What exactly are you waiting for?

Actually, if you read my last post, which was a fantastic exchange I’ve been having with an intelligent and sincere reader via email, and you actually comprehended what I said, it would be over for you. You’d walk away from this site and others like it and never look back. To be quite clear, the last couple of paragraphs were in fact, my ultimate statement. If I never wrote anything again, and just toddled off into the blessed obscurity of my own life, that would be enough to have left a legacy of profound wisdom.

It is not a dearth of information or knowledge that prevents you from waking up.

Okay, so just stop there. Did you even trip at all over that last sentence? Because it was meant to be an impenetrable wall, left to initiate a head on collision. It was there to stop you from just skimming to the next and the next and the next. There are these huge monolithic structures we leave for you, to stop your momentum. To us they are huge, but to you, they are perhaps only a branch in your path that you step right over, as you continue the uphill journey to some imaginary pinnacle.

I’ll tell you something really interesting. Of all the people who have contacted me, not a single person has sought enlightenment. Not one. They have all kinds of questions, and all kinds of energy and momentum, and are tied in all kinds of fabulous “spiritual” knots, or have sincere spiritual aspirations. They want to know what it’s like to be enlightened, they want to end suffering, be happy, experience oneness, have some kind of improved existence. They are in love with the search itself, devoted heart and soul to The Search.

They want more tools to use in the search. They want to know who is enlightened and who is not. They want to collect data, corroborate data, create a concordance of all applicable quotes. They want to become experts on enlightenment, and on enlightened people. Some of them are avid hobbyists, but some turn pro. The Professional Seeker. No longer amateurs, these people have made a life’s work out of it. With all the information they’ve gathered, they could host a television show, write a documentary, give lectures, write books, start a spiritual community or blog or whatever.

Are you making progress? Do you feel you are more spiritual than you used to be? Has the search made you a more spiritual person? That’s fantastic. There are some people who are not very spiritual at all, and others that are getting more spiritual every day. It’s better to be in the latter category, right?

Do you believe that the end result of becoming more spiritual is becoming enlightened? Is it a process, like losing weight? Quitting smoking? Training for an Iron Man competition? Will you get more and more spiritual, until one day you reach some kind of spiritual tipping point and become…Totally Spiritual?

Would you rather be spiritual or awake?

It’s quite odd, isn’t it, that they are not the same thing. An awakened person could seem quite spiritual. But not always. And immaculately spiritual people are not necessarily awake. Because they are not the same thing. In fact, not even really related.

What you are doing is becoming more spiritual. That is the seeking. There is nothing at all wrong with that, but it does cause a lot of confusion if you think you are somehow going to become enlightened in this way, from the seeking itself, as a consequence of seeking long enough, or with this guru, or that teaching, or some method.

So there it is. Becoming spiritual is something separate from waking up. Becoming spiritual definitely has methods, teachings, progress. It has its own rewards. It has its own pitfalls. It can be a lifelong endeavor.

Waking up is instant. It’s complete. I’m better at being awake now than I was when it first happened, but I am no more awake today than I was then. There is no progress in that sense. Being awake cannot really be said to make life better, or make you a better person or anything like that. And if anything, I would say that waking up made me less spiritual, not more.

In my last post I said you were like a dog chasing its tail when your stated aim was to walk to the other end of the kitchen and eat your food.  I pointed out the obvious, that these two activities are not related. Chasing your tail and walking over to eat your food are simply not related. Now I’m telling you that working on becoming more spiritual is not related to waking up.

Here are some things to consider:

  • People who are going to wake up might naturally gravitate toward spirituality. That doesn’t mean the time they spent studying or practicing some form of spirituality caused them to wake up.
  • If you can truly separate the two right now, completely separate them, what does that mean to you? If you knew that becoming more spiritual would only lead to becoming more spiritual and not to enlightenment, would it still have the same value to you? If it does have value, will your approach to it change, now that you know the outcome is not enlightenment?
  • If becoming more spiritual will not wake you up, what will?
  • If waking up means…just waking up, and not becoming Totally Spiritual, then do you still even want to wake up? What importance does this have for you? What can you do about it?

Nothing I am saying here is new. I’m sure of that. I don’t know if awakened people ever really say anything new. But there is a nuance I would like to draw your attention to, to accentuate. The idea of stopping. Getting out of your own way. Letting awakening happen rather than pursuing it.

After hearing someone tell you that your seeking behaviors and strategies are not going to wake you up, the natural next step for most people is to keep seeking by asking, “What should I do? Just stop looking at spiritual materials, stop thinking about spiritual topics? And what? Become normal? Unspiritual?”

It gets so damn tricky right about here. Because those of us that are awake know that awakening just happened. It happens. And at once it seems so astounding and yet so simple and obvious. But whatever it is, it’s not something we climbed to the top of a mountain, and climbed the highest tree to wrap our greedy little hands around and attain. You don’t wake up in the morning and cry out, “I’ve attained the waking state!”

So it happens. We wake up. And one thing we notice is that the person who ever wished to attain the waking state, or get married, or win a presidential election, and so on…that person is not real in the way we previously believed and we are also not that person. We see that the two week silent meditation retreats and the Amazonian ayahuasca vacations and the daily yoga/mantra/tantra/visualization/purification practices, while just fine, are not going to wake you up. So some of us can say things that sound a lot like this:

Your seeking is useless or futile
You are getting in your own way
Just stop and let it be
Stop striving and allow awakening to happen

Or worse. When we get all poetic or Yoda-like, it just makes this even more murky.

I’m going to try to say it as plainly as possible. I understand that you have a powerful filter in place that keeps you from understanding, really comprehending these things. That filter is your personal perspective, the fact that you see everything through the lens, filter and distortion of this flimsy, made up thing you call your “self”.

Being fully awake and being spiritual are not the same thing.

There is nothing wrong with being spiritual. If everyone on earth became more spiritual (whatever that means), it might be a more pleasant place to live than if everyone became enlightened.

Go ahead and work on becoming more spiritual, if that’s what you want to do. Just know that it is like any other pursuit, like getting an advanced degree in physics. It’s something really interesting and engaging that we can do with our time and attention. But it’s no big deal.

For a few people, upon hearing the news that they cannot become enlightened via the spiritual search, they suddenly come to a full stop and wake up. To be clear, they don’t choose to stop. It just happens. And then, as I said, awakening happens. This can be confusing because the mini-me that you think you are will hear this and latch onto that as evidence that what you need to “do” is to just stop.

Paradoxically, you can’t get out of your own way. You can’t allow awakening to happen. The you that imagines itself to allow and disallow and follows this path or switches to another tactic…this is the you that is seen to have never been real when you awaken. So it’s just this weird little kink where that very same “self” imagines it is going to get out of the way or whatever. It’s like you are dreaming that you’re mailing your rent check, and there you are in your dream standing at the post office counter and making sure it’s sent. It just has nothing at all to do with whether or not your actual (in waking life) check has been sent. So for the dream self to somehow allow the waking self to awake…you can see how this is just weird.

There are things the dream self can do that are somewhat useful. I will get into that in a later post.

And jeez, someday I’ll try to post something really uplifting! Kittens and rainbows, baby otters and the like. Meanwhile, at least I offer you an enticing photo. I took this while in Italy, on a hill overlooking the city of Como. Enjoy!


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2 comments

  1. Jesus Olmo says:

    “Perhaps he was dead already, the darkening image of the self forever removed. Yet what was left, for something was surely left, something existed still? It came to him with the simplicity of a simple sum. What was left was everything else, all that was not himself, that object which he had never before seen and upon which he now gazed with the passion of a lover. And indeed he could always have known this for the fact of death stretches the length of life. Since he was mortal he was nothing and since he was nothing all that was not himself was filled to the brim with being and it was from this that the light streamed. This then was love, to look and look until one exists no more, this was the love which was the same as death. He looked, and knew with a clarity which was one with the increasing light, that with the death of the self the world becomes quite automatically the object of a perfect love. He clung on to the words ‘quite automatically’ and murmured them to himself as a charm.”
    – Iris Murdoch, ‘The Unicorn’.

  2. Maury Lee says:

    Reminds me of Bernadette Roberts. I loved the book, “The Experience of No Self.” Not a popular book. If you find yourself reading it, you’re probaly already gone.

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